ACLU Suing Catholic Bishops Over Tamesha Means' Miscarriage In Catholic Hospital

The policies of the Catholic Church deny women proper pregnancy treatment, the American Civil Liberties Union is claiming in a new lawsuit. The ACLU is suing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as a Michigan hospital, for the miscarriage suffered by Tamesha Means. Means, a mother of three, and was 18 weeks pregnant at the time. When Means' water broke prematurely, the Catholic-affiliated Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Mich., sent her home twice, without telling Means that termination of her pregnancy was an option. When Means returned a third time with an infection in Dec. 2010, she went into labor. The baby died shortly afterward.

The ACLU's lawsuit, which is believed to be unprecedented, claims that religion came in the way of proper health care. "Because of its Catholic affiliation and binding directives, the hospital told Tamesha that there was nothing it could do and did not tell Tamesha that terminating her pregnancy was an option, and the safest course for her condition," according to the press release. The lawsuit also claims that the hospital is ultimately the responsibility of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

The hospital was the closest facility to Means, and she claims she didn't know it was Catholic. Before her miscarriage, she experienced a fever, bleeding and pain — and according to NPR, would probably received a therapeutic abortion in a non-Catholic hospital.

Dr. Douglas Laube, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin, points out that Means should have been made aware of her serious situation from the beginning of her treatment, for the sake of both Means and her baby. Hospitals should not force their religious beliefs upon patients when it jeopardizes their health, he added.

So, are a bunch of bishops responsible for one woman's miscarriage? Even though it's difficult to peg the incident on an organization, the ACLU sure thinks they've got a case. Even though individual doctors and clinics have been sued in similar situations, it's the first time an entire bishops' organization has been sued over the issue. "[They] direct health care providers not to inform patients about alternatives inconsistent with those directives even when those alternatives are the best option for the patient's health," the organization states.

But others suggest this particular case is just another attempt to drum up attention for the widening gap between the Catholic Church and reproductive issues. A flurry of attention this past year focused on Ireland, which eased abortion restrictions for life-threatening cases, after 17-week-pregnant Savita Halappanavar died after being denied an emergency abortion.

In the United States, some lawmakers haven't given up on implementing healthcare with a "conscience clause." And just last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case concerning Christian-owned craft-store chain Hobby Lobby refusing to provide employees with Obamacare's so-called contraception mandate because it covers drugs like Plan B.

Additionally, Michigan is preparing to take on potentially contentious abortion restrictions. The state may require women to purchase insurance riders to cover abortion — in advance.